This last weekend (Thursday through Sunday) I was at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Colorado Gold conference. I realized that I have gone each year for nine years straight. RMFW is my tribe. They are a great bunch of people who have the same passion as I do: writing and teaching writing craft. Some years have been better than others, but I thought this year’s programming was especially good. The main focus this year was on tangible writing craft and the workshops included levels from novice to professional. The keynotes were great. The food was good. There was much networking with new friends and catching up with old friends. There were cocktails. Maybe more than a few cocktails, but who’s counting?
One of my favorite moments was sitting down with another writer (of whom I am in awe and love dearly) over a cocktail. We caught up and discussed writing projects. I bounced my new work in progress around and discussed my need for a B story line in the WIP. This writer friend listened. I threw out ideas and she shared a few ideas. It’s always helpful to get another perspective. When I woke up the next morning with the answer to the B story question, I was amazed. Sometimes you just need to bounce ideas off of other skilled storytellers. I now have a great B story line. That in itself is worth the price of admission.
I’ve been to several other writer’s conferences over the years. Some are better than others. Regardless of which writer’s conference you attend, there are always things to learn. Your goal is (or it should be) to become better at your chosen profession—even if you are still working the day job. Just keep learning. Keep practicing. Keep writing. If writing is what you want to do, then be good at it.
One of the keynote speakers and teachers this year at Colorado Gold was thriller author James Scott Bell. Jim is a long-time teacher of writing craft, and his books on various topics are easy to assimilate and understand because he breaks down craft topics into easily digestible meals. Some of his craft books I have read more than a few times and recommend them to other writers. These include:
- Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot that Grips Readers from Start to Finish.
- Write Your Novel from the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pansters and Everyone in Between
- How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
- Elements of Fiction Writing – Conflict & Suspense
He has half a dozen more craft books, and they are all good, but I especially love the above titles. If you have opportunity to attend one of Jim’s classes, you will be enthralled with great teaching wrapped in a cloak of entertainment while learning elements of writing craft. You will walk away richer and a better writer. If you don’t have opportunity to attend one of his workshops, let me encourage you to read one or more of the above books. These books will clarify things for you with regard to the craft of writing. This is important because the reality is you as writer don’t know what you don’t know until someone points it out to you. It’s easier to have it pointed out in a book than have an agent or editor tell you.
Why am I touting this writing conference?
Because you will learn more in one long writing conference than you probably will in ten years of writing on your own without interaction.
Why am I touting writing craft books?
Because books help you to understand the things that make your writing better, especially for mass market fiction and genre fiction.
But here’s the main point. It doesn’t matter what writers’ group you get entrenched with, or which writers’ conference you attend. The main thing is that you get yourself entrenched with other writers and make some effort to improve your writing. Writers need each other. Writing is a solitary process, and the ability to bounce ideas off other writers is invaluable. The ability to learn something that you’ve been struggling with is invaluable. The ability to share your pages with someone you trust who has more skill than you on a given topic is invaluable. All these things will make you a better writer. Involving yourself on a regular basis with other writers will stretch you as a person, but you will be better for it.
Do a google search in your area for writing groups. Look on MeetUp. You will find that there are probably a ton of other writers around you that you were not aware of. Meet them. Have coffee with them. Volunteer to help out with the group if they need it. Have a cocktail. Talk about writing. Get your pages critiqued. Become a better writer. Get entrenched. That’s the important bit.
James Scott Bell